The name “E. Jean Carroll” came and went from the headlines. But I think her story – and the larger story – are worth remembering.
In late June she was suddenly all over the news:
E. Jean Carroll.
I’d never heard of her, though she’s written several books and says, “I write the ‘Ask E. Jean’ column in ELLE magazine. It is – astonishingly – the longest, currently-running advice column in American publishing.”
But Carroll wasn’t suddenly newsworthy for her column or books, at least, not directly.
It was because she claimed she’d been sexually assaulted by Donald Trump.
Carroll had added her name to the list of women who have accused Trump of sexual assault or unwanted advances.
The length of that list varies, depending on whom you’re reading: “more than a dozen,” “at least 15,” “19,” and some articles named Carroll as #24:
Trump, of course, has denied all the women’s accusations, including Carroll’s.
But it’s not Carroll’s claim or Trump denying it that still confounds me.
It’s what Trump said:
“Number one, she’s not my type.”
So, what was he saying? If Carroll was his “type,” he would have assaulted her?
That he assaults only women who are his “type”?
The Carroll situation was not the first time Trump disparaged the appearance of an accuser.
In 2016, Jessica Leeds claims Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt during a flight to New York in the early 1980s.
Trump’s response: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice.”
Also in 2016, Natasha Stoynoff, a former writer at People, said that in 2005, Trump shut the door after they walked into a room together, and “within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat.”
Trump’s response: “Look at her,” he told a cheering crowd at an October 2016 rally. “You tell me what you think. I don’t think so. I don’t think so.”
“Not my type.” “Not my first choice.” “Look at her.”
What, I wondered, is going on with the “She’s not attractive enough to assault” statements?
And, I wondered, will the media pick up on this heinous statement?
The media did:
From this article:
The “too ugly to rape” defense is one many perpetrators use to undermine victims, and sexual-assault experts say it feeds into the public’s misunderstanding of how sexual violence works.
“We see that babies to women in their 90s are raped,” said Sarah Cook, associate dean at Georgia State University Honors College, a nationally recognized expert on violence against women and a survivor of sexual assault. “Rape isn’t about sexual attraction. Rape is about the expression of power through sexual behavior.”
Sexual assault is never about a woman’s beauty, experts say, but is a unique form of control used to shame, demean and defile victims. And it can happen to anyone, regardless of their appearance, age or what they’re wearing.
“There are so many different portrayals of rape in our society, and many of them feed our stereotypes that rape is about sexual attraction, that you have to be absolutely beautiful, stunning, to be raped,” said Karen Weiss, a sociology professor at West Virginia University and an expert on sexual victimization. “But the reality is, all of us are vulnerable.”
From this article:
By claiming he isn’t attracted to these women, Trump represents sexual assault as driven solely by desire for another person rather than what it really is: a violent action driven as much as by a need to exert power as any kind of attraction. Referring to attractiveness reframes an assault and puts it in the same language we use to talk about consensual romantic and sexual encounters.
By discussing her attractiveness, Trump also shifts attention from what we should be talking about: whether or not he sexually assaulted Carroll in the 1990s. Now, he has shifted the conversation to focus on an assessment of the alleged victim’s appearance and whether she was “attractive enough” to be chosen as his victim. Sexual assault becomes a compliment bestowed only on attractive women, and Trump is able to further objectify women as he denies the sexual assault allegations.
From this article:
In working with sexual offenders, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that sexual desire isn’t the motivator for sexual violence. “Although sexuality and aggression are involved in all forms of sexual violence, sex is merely the medium used to express various types of non-sexual feelings such as anger and hostility towards women, as well as a need to control, dominate and assert power over them,” according to WHO. “It is rather a violent, aggressive and hostile act used as a means to degrade, dominate, humiliate, terrorize and control women. The hostility, aggression and/or sadism displayed by the perpetrator are intended to threaten the victim’s sense of self.”
In that sense, turning around and calling the accuser unattractive is another attempt to humiliate her.
From this article:
There is, as always, a certain clarity to Trump’s cruelty. The president seems to understand, on some level, something profoundly true about the creaking mechanics of misogyny: Sexual abuse is not, ultimately, about sexual attraction. It is about power. It is about one person’s exertion of will over another. In this way, “She’s not my type” is deeply entangled with the president’s long-standing habit of dismissing unruly women through his negative assessments of their attractiveness: the women as the sexual commodities, Donald Trump as the discerning consumer.
It’s not just with accusers that Trump lets loose his fusillade of insults:
These New York Times writers compiled what I know was only a short list of women Trump “has attacked by demeaning their looks, mocking their bodily functions or comparing them to animals.”
Here’s just a sampling of Trumps comments:
Carly Fiorina, 2016 Republican presidential candidate: “Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”
Katarina Witt, a German Olympic figure skater, would be considered attractive only “if you like a woman with a bad complexion who is built like a linebacker.”
Omarosa Manigault Newman, former aide and author of a tell-all book, Unhinged: Trump called her “that dog” and a “crazed, crying lowlife.”
Megyn Kelly, then a Fox News journalist, after moderating a Republican debate in 2015: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
Cher, in 2012, over her criticism of Republican candidates running for office: She should “stop with the bad plastic surgery and nasty statements.”
Kim Novak, actress, while Trump was watching the 2014 Oscars: “The last song was terrible! Kim should sue her plastic surgeon!”
So Carroll has lots of company.
E. Jean Carroll flashed across our awareness like Halley’s Comet, but she won’t have the comet’s staying power.
She’ll be replaced by the next woman who publicly claims sexual harassment or sexual assault by Trump.
Trump will deny her claim and denigrate her.
And her name will be added to the list as #16 or #20 or #25.
If you’ve heard of Jack the Ripper, you probably heard a version like this:
“Jack the Ripper killed a bunch of prostitutes, he cut their throats and cut their guts open, and he was never caught.”
This is the story that began and then evolved about the murders of five women in London between August 31, 1888 and November 9, 1888.
That the murders were gruesome is true.
That the murderer or murderers were never caught is true.
That all five women were prostitutes…
So how did the “prostitutes” label – a fixture in the Ripper story – come about?
That’s the question Hallie Rubenhold answers in her book, The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper.
This is not – I emphasize – not a book about Jack the Ripper. There are already hundreds of those. Nor is it written by one of the countless “experts” with their theories, or one of the conspiracy theorists with theirs, known as “Ripperologists.”
In addition to the books there are close to 50 documentaries, feature films, or films with Ripper-style murders.
And there’s a Jack the Ripper Museum in London, where you can tour exhibits, and take a guided walk “in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper and his victims.”
Unless you’re looking for gore, The Five is a better choice.
Rubenhold has no interest in discovering the Ripper’s identity; her interest is in his five victims – their backgrounds, their circumstances, and why they had the misfortune of living in the Whitechapel district of London’s East End where they encountered a killer.
And what they had in common: Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, Kate Eddowes and Mary Kelly were “throwaway women.” They were poor, they lived in slums, and four of the five were considered old – in their mid-40s.
Sometimes they were homeless, and sometimes they slept “rough,” that is, on the streets.
All of that made it easy to call them “prostitutes,” and once that happened, the label stuck. They were “fallen” women, probably leading disgusting, impoverished and drunken lives and therefore, they mattered less.
The focus of the newspaper stories changed from the tragedy of the murders to the grisly way the women were killed, the inability of the police to catch the killer, and the worry: You could be next.
And all five were also victims of that sensationalist press. The goal of newspapers was to sell newspapers, not to tell the victims’ stories. When the facts weren’t enough, they printed rumors, speculation, and outright misinformation that “took root in the public consciousness as readily as it does today,” says the author.
And today, it’s sadly easy to find the “prostitutes” label still used as a fact:
But Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Kate and Mary were much more than their deaths, and Rubenhold shows us why.
And in her Introduction, Rubenhold tells us why she wrote The Five:
I do so in the hope that we may now hear their stories clearly and give back to them that which was so brutally taken away with their lives: their dignity.
Rubenhold doesn’t go into the horrific way in these five women died, and neither will I.
Instead, she speaks to their whole history, how their stories evolved the way they did, and suggests that this marginalizing of women back then…
There’s a 351-mile stretch of train tracks between Los Angeles and San Diego called the LOSSAN Corridor:
It’s the second busiest intercity passenger rail corridor in the United States, and also carries tons of freight, from corn to cars, both locally, and – by connecting with other trains – across the U.S.
LOSSAN is used by:
COASTER, a local commuter rail operated by North County Transit District (NCTD).
Pacific Surfliner, operated by Amtrak.
Metrolink, a commuter rail operated by the Southern California Regional Rail Authority.
BNSF for freight.
PACSUN for freight.
These are very busy train tracks.
And they’re in very big trouble.
About 20 miles north of San Diego there’s a 1.7-mile stretch of LOSSAN Corridor tracks on the Del Mar bluffs, and by that I mean right on the bluffs, right along the Pacific Coast:
The Del Mar bluffs are collapsing into the Pacific Ocean.
And one of these days, they might take a train with them.
The Bullet Train Boondoggle
There’s another train track – sort of – that’s being built – sort of – that’s supposed to run between Northern California, Southern California, and the Central Valley.
This is the California High-Speed Rail, and it’s going nowhere to anywhere, anytime soon:
Also known as the “bullet train,” “the train to nowhere” and “California’s boondoggle,” it mostly exists in an artist’s imagination (image above) or in this state of incompletion:
In 2008 about $9.95 billion in bond seed money for the bullet train was approved by California voters, with an estimated total cost of about $39 billion, and the first phase of passenger service beginning in 2017.
The project has now been scaled way back, with a price tag grown to $77 billion, and the first phase of passenger service beginning maybe in 2033.
Let’s compare what we’re spending – and what we’re getting.
Since 2008 – in 11 years – we’ve spent about $6 billion on the train to nowhere.
Since 1998 – in 21 years – we’ve spent just $14.1 million trying to shore up the Del Mar bluffs.
Here’s how that looks in comparison:
Why the comparison?
Because the need to implement a permanent solution for the Del Mar bluffs – and the train tracks on them – is immediate.
While the bullet train that we keep throwing money at – well, this headline from the Los Angeles Times said it best:
That tiny stretch of train tracks on the Del Mar bluffs – just 1.7 miles out of 351 – is critical for so many reasons, the first of which is:
Passenger Safety: I was not speaking lightly earlier when I said the bluffs could collapse, taking a train with them. Just the COASTER passenger trains carry 4,900 people along the Del Mar bluffs each weekday. Now add in Metrolink and Surfliner passengers. Add cargo trains, and about 50 trains total travel that stretch of dangerous track every day.
Here’s a partial list of other effects of the Del Mar bluffs failing, bringing train service to a stop:
Freeway Congestion: As many as 2,500 more passenger cars, another 122 buses, and an additional 600 semi-trucks would travel the already crowded Interstate 5 daily without the coastal rail route. Think more vehicle crashes. Think egregiously longer commutes. Think greenhouse gas emissions.
Increased Costs to Consumers: Shippers of all types of materials on the San Diego segment of the LOSSAN rail corridor together would pay an additional $604,812 per day, or $221 million in a year, to move those things by truck – and pass that on to consumers.
Car Sales: One in every 10 new imported automobiles sold in the U.S. arrives by ship at the Port of San Diego and then heads north by rail. In 2018 about 400,000 vehicles, mostly from major Japanese and Korean manufacturers, were unloaded at the National City Marine Terminal. If these vehicles don’t travel by train, the shipping cost will increase – and be passed on to consumers.
Regional Telecommunications: A large bluff collapse could disrupt regional telecommunications, which provide information vital to NCTD to continue running commuter rail services and support interstate commerce.
Military Response: The rail corridor is part of the Defense Department’s Strategic Rail Corridor Network, which requires that it be available to move troops and equipment during a national emergency.
What are our priorities? Continuing to waste money on the bullet train – a good idea gone bad – or allocating more money to fix the Del Mar bluffs danger zone?
OK: Why are the Del Mar bluffs such a danger zone?
The bluffs are sandstone, a porous material, subject to rain, ground water, breaking waves, wind, storms and earthquakes, as well as animals that live in, and people that walk on, the bluffs:
And due to climate change, the ocean level is rising, eating away at more of that sandstone.
Why is the need immediate?
Bluff collapses increased significantly last August after a year of relative quiet. Slides were reported August 22, September 27, and October. 5.
Then, on December 10, a 30-foot-wide chunk sloughed off:
Erosion took another big chunk February 2, and then on February 15, one of the biggest collapses occurred when a 55-foot-wide section peeled away in pieces:
I’ve ridden the COASTER along the Del Mar bluffs many times, and each time I’ve had two simultaneous thoughts:
“What an amazing view!”
“What if this bluff collapsed?”
Now, after all the recent collapses, I’ll think twice before riding the COASTER again.
Until I started my research, I didn’t know how dangerous the Del Mar bluffs are.
Or how far-reaching, expensive, and damn inconvenient a long-term rail shutdown could be.
Now I know.
But our governor and legislators have known this for a long time.
And the politicians have just inched along, allocating the Del Mar bluffs a few million here and a few million there:
Three rounds of bluff stabilization projects have been completed at Del Mar since 1998 at a total cost of about $5 million, according to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).
The next phase of construction is expected to cost $3 million. It’s been funded and is scheduled to start in fall 2019.
State Senator Toni Atkins announced in June 2019 the latest allocation of $6.1 million for bluff stabilization.
As for other money?
Last December a media outlet reported that, “The North County Transit District is hoping to hear this month about an $18 million federal grant that would help stabilize crumbling bluffs next to the railway line through Del Mar.”
I’ll remind NCTD of this:
They did not get the $18 million federal grant.
But we taxpayers were forced to keep throwing money at the bullet train to nowhere.
Now, you could ask – logically – why not just move the tracks?
And there is discussion about that.
There is much discussion about that.
In fact, five possible routes for moving the train tracks off the Del Mar bluffs have been outlined by regional transportation officials.
Four of the ideas involve twin sets of tracks in tunnels drilled or bored through the ground as deep as 270 feet beneath the surface and up to a mile or more inland. The fifth alternative is a deep trench that follows Highway 101, below the roadway through the center of town:
To reroute about five miles of the track: Between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion.
And State Senator Toni Atkins is excited about $6 million?
So far we’ve spent $14.1 million in 21 years stabilizing the Del Mar bluffs.
Versus $6 billion spent in 11 years on the bullet train to nowhere.
According to SANDAG, protecting the bluff-top route over the next 30 years may cost an additional $90 million in today’s dollars.
Moving the tracks off the bluff: Several billion.
It’s time – way past time – to implement a permanent solution for the Del Mar bluff train tracks and save the real trains that are in real trouble.
And to stop wasting money on the High-Speed Rail bullet train to nowhere…
“…nearly all the promises made to voters have gone unfilled as costs have exploded because of overruns and multiple management failings at the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority.
“This boondoggle is a massive blend of incompetence and dishonesty. Californians wanted a bullet train. It’s never been clearer it’s going nowhere fast.”
– San Diego Union-Tribune editorial, August 2, 2019
In an unprecedented move by a president known for doing the unprecedented, on Thursday after awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to basketball legend Bob Cousy, Trump later also awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom to himself.
The White House statement issued late Thursday evening said in part,
Due to his extraordinarily numerous accomplishments over the past week – more than any president in the history of our country – Trump, who is known for his deep introspection, had impartially reviewed his recent news coverage and, filled with warm fuzzies, decided that he was a most worthy recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“When it comes to all things presidential,” Trump said, “who knows better than Your Favorite President?
“I was in Kentucky on Tuesday – or was it Wednesday – anyway, talking to a bunch of vets. Lexington, I think. Or was it Louisville? Anyway, they love me in Kentucky, we won Kentucky by – well, it was bigger than Abraham Lincoln’s numbers, let me tell you.
“And the best Senate Majority Leader in history was born there, you know who I’m talking about, that’s right, Mitch McConnell. And he’s up for re-election next year, and if any of you Jews don’t vote for him, you’re disloyal to our country.
“And the people at the vet thing – the crowd was enormous. Bigger than my inauguration crowd, and you know that was a record breaker. But that’s what we do, we break records and Make America Great Again and to hell with Greenland and their nasty prime minister.
“Maybe I’ll buy Taiwan instead of Greenland. Who owns Taiwan – Japan?
“So I’m saying to these vets – do you know how much vets love me? There was also this huge crowd outside the hall and people were, like, climbing over each other, trying to get in.
“And the fake news won’t tell you that – because they’re too busy trying to create a recession. Fake news, fake recession. Our economy is terrific. Great growth potential.
“So I said to the guys – well, there were some women there, I guess. Are there women veterans? Anyway, one of the guys, I think his name was…it doesn’t matter, he’d gotten the Medal of Honor.
“And I had another one of my brilliant ideas – I am brilliant, you know. In fact, I’m a genius. A very stable genius.
“So I said, ‘I wanted one, but they told me I don’t qualify, Woody.’ I said, ‘Can I give it to myself anyway?’
“Because if I hadn’t had those bone spur things in my left heel – or was it both heels? The doctor – great guy, really talented, very smart, we had a lot in common – he said, ‘Mr. Trump, I know you’re anxious to serve our country and go to Vietnam’ – and I was, I was ready to go and fight. Nobody was more ready than I was. But the doctor said, ‘No, you have bone spurs.’ So I wasn’t able to enlist.
“But if I had – Medal of Honor. No doubt. Absolutely none. Ever. Never. None. Maybe two.
“So that got me thinking about medals and I remembered – Medal of Freedom!
“I was already in a giving mood, after giving the medal to that Cousy guy, so the timing was great. Best timing ever, really.
“And tonight I awarded it to myself.
“Not in secret, though, no matter what the fake news is saying. There was a big crowd there, it would have been bigger than my inauguration but it was inside.
So often your advice is so right on, but your recent response to “New England Nana” compels me to take you to task – you dogged it with the answer.
First, her letter:
Here’s a fun suggestion for grandmothers who are upset about teens not writing thank-you notes. If you want to hear from a teen, try this:
Send a card and write inside, “Happy Birthday! Please buy something fun or something you need with the enclosed check. Love you, Grandma.”
THEN FORGET TO ENCLOSE THE CHECK.
You will hear from that teen, I promise.
“New England Nana”
You are a shrewd and witty lady. I’m sure my readers will love that suggestion. I know I did!
Abby, you and “Nana” are wrong, wrong, wrong.
Because what “Nana” is suggesting – and what you’re condoning – is a scenario in which sure, Grandma will hear from the teen.
But only because she forgot to enclose the check:
Grandma (answering phone): Hello? Teen (bored): Grandma, you forgot my check. Grandma: Why, honey, how nice of you to call! Teen: Just do a direct deposit in my checking account, OK? Bye.
And what has the ungrateful teen learned at this point? Only that Grandma is getting forgetful.
The teen has learned nothing about good manners, specifically, that every gift should be acknowledged, every time, with a note, preferably handwritten, but typed is OK. Or at the very least, via email, if Grandma is Internet savvy.
I’m especially disappointed with your response, Abby, because you are such a proponent of thank-you notes. In fact, you’ve used your column on numerous occasions to commiserate with people who bemoan the relatives and friends who don’t send them:
“When a gift or a check isn’t acknowledged, the (unwritten) message it sends is that the item wasn’t appreciated, which is insulting and hurtful.”
You go on to say,
“Chief among the reasons that thank-you notes are unwritten is that many people don’t know what to say. They think the message has to be long and flowery when, in fact, keeping it short and to the point is more effective.”
But this lack, you say, can be remedied for just $7 (U.S. funds, check or money order) for your booklet, “How to Write Letters for All Occasions,” which:
“Contains samples of thank-you letters for birthday gifts, shower gifts and wedding gifts, as well as those that arrive around holiday time…With the holiday season approaching, this is the perfect time to reply with a handwritten letter, note or well-written email.”
You concluded that column with,
“Because the composition of letters is not always effectively taught in the schools, my booklet can serve as a helpful tutorial, one that is valuable for parents as a way to teach their children to write using proper etiquette.”
Now, this last presupposes that the parents are, in fact, teaching their children proper etiquette.
Which begs the question, did “Nana” teach her son or daughter to write thank-you notes? If not, then she can hardly expect him or her to teach her grandchildren, can she?
Abby, your solution of making thank-you notes easy by offering templates for them is one option.
Stop sending the ingrates gifts.
To “Nana” and all the others who lovingly shop for, wrap and give gifts; shop for cards and lovingly enclose checks; and then wait, while days and then weeks pass, for an acknowledgement that never comes…
If that ungrateful teen or other relative, friend, or whomever, didn’t acknowledge your last gift, accept that they aren’t going to change their behavior, but you can change yours.
And by continuing to give gifts, you’re actually reinforcingtheir bad behavior.
Do them, and yourself, a favor:
And if they wonder why good ole Grandma wasn’t good for a graduation gift…
The San Diego Union-Tribune has a restaurant reviewer, Michele Parente – hence, the title.
As for the prétentieux – pretentious – stay with me.
But first, let’s start with a very brief history of the hallowed Michelin restaurant rating system.
The Michelin rating system began in the Michelin Guide, which goes back more than a century. The French Michelin brothers, Ándre and Édouard, had started a tire company in 1889, and in 1900 they realized that that a ratings guide for hotels and restaurants would encourage the drivers to travel, wear out their tires, and buy more of them:
The guide cataloged hotels, restaurants, mechanics, and gasoline vendors throughout France, and the brothers began sending inspectors – anonymously – to various restaurants, who dined and then rated the establishments with a one-to-three-star system:
Michelin went international, and those stars became – and remain – highly coveted by chefs from across the globe. One star will pack a restaurant. Two stars – you’ll wait six months for a reservation. And three stars? The Restaurant Hall of Fame.
And while no chef as yet has committed murder for a star, I betting that’s been contemplated by many.
So in June, when Addison became the first – and only – restaurant San Diego county to earn a Michelin star, it was unegrosse affaire (a big deal).
Big enough to prompt reviewer Michele to revisit and, I guess, re-review it.
Now, I like to eat, and I enjoy going out to eat, so it follows that I enjoy reading restaurant reviews.
If my mouth is watering by the end of the review – better yet, half-way through the review – that restaurant is in my future.
Addison is not.
Usually, after reading a restaurant review, my first step is to visit their website to check out the full menu.
But Addison’s website has nothing so bourgeoisie as a “Menu” link.
Instead, I had to click on Experience, which led me here:
Ethos? Grandeur? Are you beginning to see why I’m thinking pretentious?
Then I clicked on “contemporary haute cuisine” (“haute” being French for “high-class”), and here were my choices:
First: “Découverte”? What the hell is that?
Second: Choices? Two. I can taste five things for $165, or taste 10 things for $265.
Taste, which is the haute way of saying, “Each portion is the size of a quarter.”
Pretentious? I’m thinking so.
But I was already thinking that as I read Michele’s review. Here’s an excerpt:
“Whipped yogurt fouetté with green tea and yuzu granité, olive oil crème glacée with the fruits de la terre.”
Was my mouth watering?
But my brain was spinning, trying to figure out what the hell it was.
Pretentious is what it was.
“The smoked salmon rillettes pirouette.”
OK, I get “smoked salmon.” I checked the dictionary for “rillettes” and that’s something you can spread on toast (if toast is included in that $265). But “pirouette”? Isn’t that a ballet move?
So this is dancing salmon paste?
“The cheeky interlude of potato chips with onion dip.”
I’ve eaten plenty of potato chips and not once have I encountered a chip I’d consider “cheeky.”
“Warm amuse bouche gougère, with sea salt and sherry crémeux, is meant to be eaten in a single bite.”
Note to Michelle: Each thing on a plate is only a single bite.
That’s why they call it a tasting menu.
At $26.50 a bite, for 10 bites. If your dining companion orders the same, figure $530 plus tax ($40.07) and tip (15% is $79.50):
Michele said it’s a meal “you’ll likely remember the rest of your life.”
Yeah – because you’ll likely be paying for it the rest of your life.
According to Michele’s review, at Addison the waitperson will place the napkin on my lap with tweezers. Perhaps they think that will distract me from the cost-per-bite thing?
But the dress code did:
Oh, yeah. My look is always soignée. I’m known for my soignée-ness.
One last jab at Michele, and then I’m done.
Michele did allow how some might find the tweezers-napkin thing “a tad precious.”
“Precious” in this instance meaning “affectedly concerned with elegant or refined behavior, language, or manners.”
I’d describe the whole review – and the restaurant – as more than a “tad.” How about…
There’s an old joke about eating Chinese food and being hungry an hour later.
After having the Experience at Addison and their measly 10-bite dinner, you, too, will be hungry an hour later.
The Jeffrey Epstein “apparent suicide” story wasn’t in the news for 24 hours – hell, it probably wasn’t even a half an hour – when conspiracy theories began appearing on the Internet.
Then conspiracy interest exploded because Trump retweeted one.
Condemnation for Trump’s action was immediate, and widespread:
And while we were all agog at Trump’s action, we were distracted from something very obvious:
The possibility that Epstein isn’t dead.
I believe he is not.
My first thought, when I heard Epstein was dead, was “No, he isn’t. Epstein cut a deal with people in high places, and he was spirited away somewhere safe because he knows too much about too many men, and he has the photos and videos to prove it.”
Let’s put the puzzle together, piece by piece.
#1. Our government is very good at making people disappear. It’s called the Witness Protection Program, or WITSEC. According to usmarshals.gov/witsec/:
The U.S. Marshals have protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,600 witnesses and 9,900 of their family members, since the program began in 1971.
Witnesses and their families typically get new identities with authentic documentation. Housing, subsistence for basic living expenses and medical care are provided to the witnesses. Job training and employment assistance may also be provided.
No Witness Security Program participant, following program guidelines, has been harmed or killed while under the active protection of the U.S. Marshals Service.
The government doesn’t have to use Epstein as a witness. They just give him a new identity, park him on some obscure tropical island like Ko Lipe or Aitutaki, and no one’s the wiser.
Epstein was already in a federal prison – how hard could it have been for the Feds to spirit him away?
#2. First there was an “alleged suicide attempt,” to set up the “real” deal. Epstein was in the MCC (Metropolitan Correctional Center). On July 23, “Epstein had been found semiconscious in his cell with marks on his neck – though it was not clear if he had tried to harm himself or had been attacked,” according to New York’s Magazine’sIntelligencer.
What happened that day is still not clear.
Epstein was placed in a special cell on suicide watch. But on July 29, for reasons that are also not clear as of today, he was taken off suicide watch and returned to the MCC special housing unit.
“Typically,” said Intelligencer, “that should have only happened if the prison’s chief psychologist approved the change after evaluating the inmate and justifying why they are no longer at risk of harming themselves.”
As to why Epstein was taken off suicide watch, there was this in the August 12 The Hill:
“Defense attorneys pushed for Jeffrey Epstein to be taken off suicide watch ahead of his death on Saturday, an unidentified source told ABC News.”
And this, from the August 12 Washington Examiner:
“Epstein’s lawyers requested that Epstein be taken off suicide watch, which requires around-the-clock surveillance of an inmate, in late July, according to the Wall Street Journal.”
Did his lawyers request this?
I anticipate much finger pointing in the coming days.
#3. Who oh-so-quickly named Epstein’s “death” an “apparent suicide”? According to the Washington Post, “The Bureau of Prisons and Attorney General William P. Barr called the death an ‘apparent suicide’” after Epstein was pronounced dead at the hospital where he’d been taken on August 10.
If that was Epstein’s body.
Why was Barr, in particular, in such a rush to pronounce this an “apparent suicide”?
And why has Barr inserted himself into this?
He’s making all sorts of public pronouncements, and a lot of noise about being “appalled” and “angry” and “demanding” an investigation, and that’s what is happening – there are now two investigations into Epstein’s death, one by the FBI and another by the inspector general.
The FBI has more than 35,000 employees. Why doesn’t Barr just back off and let the FBI do its job?
Because he’s Trump’s boy, and he does whatever Trump tells him to do.
And – sadly – is the FBI doing what Barr tells them to do? Is this another Trump trumped-up favorite: a “national emergency” but this time, a secret?
One last note about Barr. Barr is the head of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is part of Barr’s DOJ.
#4. Epstein rolled with high rollers – and according to at least one of his alleged victims, he has videos and photos. Since before Epstein’s arrest, among the names that have been connected to him are Trump, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew and attorney Alan Dershowitz. After the release of new documents on July 8, the list grew to include hedge fund billionaire Glenn Dubin; former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson; former Democratic Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell; the late MIT computer scientist Marvin Minsky; and MC2 model agency cofounder Jean Luc Brunel.
In a 2015 article The Guardian reported that Virginia Roberts,
“The woman who alleges that she was made to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17 has told a court she believes U.S. authorities hold video footage of her having underage sex with powerful associates of Andrew’s friend Jeffrey Epstein.
“Roberts went on in her affidavit on Friday to allege that authorities already hold evidence ‘that will support what I have been saying about Epstein and his associates,’ including the video and photographic material. She said she did not understand why no action had been taken.”
If “U.S. authorities hold video footage,” why haven’t they made it public? I believe “video and photographic material” exists, but I think it’s in Epstein’s hands, not U.S. authorities.
It wasn’t just Virginia Roberts whom Epstein kept a record of; according to the July 8, 2019 New York Times:
“Prosecutors said they seized hundreds, and possibly thousands, of ‘sexually suggestive’ pictures of nude or partially nude young women and girls during a search of Mr. Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse on Saturday, conducted at roughly the same time the financier was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.
“The cache of photos, some of which were discovered in a locked safe that also contained CDs with labels like ‘Girl pics nude,’ demonstrate the predatory attitude that Mr. Epstein continues to have toward young women, prosecutors said.”
Clearly, Epstein was a man who liked to keep records.
#5. Epstein was rich, but not from “hedge-fund management.” The media often label Epstein as “billionaire hedge-fund manager,” but it’s easy to find plenty of information online that contradicts this:
From the July 11, 2019 New York MagazineIntelligencer:
“For decades, Epstein has been credulously described as a big-time hedge-fund manager and a billionaire, even though there’s not a lot of evidence that he is either.”
“…the hedge-fund managers we spoke to leaned toward the theory that Epstein was running a blackmail scheme under the cover of a hedge fund.”
“The fact that Epstein’s fund is offshore in a tax haven – it is based in the U.S. Virgin Islands – and has a secret client list both add credence to the blackmail theory.”
From Fortune, July 8, 2019:
(In a 2002 New York Magazine profile), “Epstein is described as someone who’s successes and failures weren’t played out in public. ‘Epstein breaks the mold,’ the magazine wrote. ‘Most everyone on the Street has heard of him, but nobody seems to know what the hell he is up to. Which is just the way he likes it.’”
“That has been the motif of Jeffrey Epstein’s last 16 years,’” said Ward [Vicky Ward, a journalist who wrote a 2003 Vanity Fair story]. “He’s been untouchable, given a free pass by the very rich people, the very powerful people with whom he socializes and perhaps over whom he has leverage.’”
From Forbes, also on July 8, 2019:
“Forbes, however,has never included Epstein, 66, in its rankings of the World’s Billionaires, since there is scant proof he holds a ten-figure fortune. As we wrote in 2010, ‘The source of his wealth – a money management firm in the U.S. Virgin Islands – generates no public records, nor has his client list ever been released.’”
And Barron’s, on July 17, 2019:
“Most day traders and professional money managers underperform the market, and from the only public evidence of his trading, Epstein was as mediocre as the rest. Whatever else Epstein was, it appears he was no stock-market wizard.”
That Epstein has money is not in debate. But the source of that money very much is.
I find the suggestion of blackmail totally credible.
#6. Is there video of Epstein’s “death”? It’s hard to tell. The day after, stories ranged from “there were no cameras in his cell” to, “there were cameras, but they malfunctioned” to, “suicide supposedly nearly impossible at ultra-secure Jeffrey Epstein lockup.”
As of today it appears the MCC special housing unit has cameras, but not pointing into inmate cells.
And if a video surfaces of Epstein committing suicide, here’s a reminder of how easy it is to fake that:
This “deepfake video” of Mark Zuckerberg posted on Instagram in June showed how easy it is to create them – and how easy it is for people to believe them.
One could argue that any videos of men with Epstein’s alleged victims could be deepfake as well. But in-depth examination by professionals would distinguish the deepfake from the real. Deepfake videos can fool the saps who believe everything on social media is true, but not the experts.
#7. Will Epstein’s family and friends cooperate with this cover-up? Epstein’s has one sibling, his younger brother Mark, age 64.
Mark is listed on the Board of Directors of The Humpty Dumpty Institute, described on its website as,
“a unique non-profit organization dedicated to tackling difficult global and domestic issues by establishing innovative and strategic public/private partnerships that provide sensible solutions to serious problems.”
The website’s bio on Mark includes this:
“Mr. Epstein decided to semi-retire at age 39 to be able to devote more time to non-profit interests including Cooper Union, The New School Concert Series, the New York String Orchestra Seminar, Ballet Inc., the United Nations and the Humpty Dumpty Institute.”
And yet, this article in the August 13 Daily Beast…
Describes Mark as “a real estate magnate” and talks about “sizable donations and loans to several prominent nonprofits he worked with,” donating “at least $500,000 to his alma mater, Cooper Union, in 2009,” and,
“Along with his New York City properties, [Mark] Epstein maintains an estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, as well as rental properties in Newburgh, New York, and a home in Pennsylvania.”
How do you “semi-retire” 25 years ago, and do and have all that?
When the Daily Beast contacted him,
“Mark Epstein hung up on a reporter who called for comment and declined to respond to questions sent by text.”
This seems to confirm this headline in the August 12 Wall Street Journal:
And according to CBS This Morning on August 13, 2019
“CBS News has learned that Epstein’s estranged brother Marc was called and he identified Epstein’s body.”
“Called and identified” – does that mean he saw the body, or just discussed it over the phone?
I have not seen the CBS statement confirmed in any other coverage.
I’ll suggest Mark would prefer his finances be kept under wraps, and is doing what he’s told.
As for Jeffrey Epstein’s friends, we know Epstein has many associates and attorneys.
Former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell? Whereabouts unknown.
Longtime business associate Les Wexner? Said he split ties with Jeffrey Epstein, his former money manager, 12 years ago.
Alan Dershowitz – the high-profile attorney who was part of the legal team that negotiated Epstein’s 2007 plea deal – but a friend?
Trump, Clinton, Richardson, Mitchell, Dubin, Brunel, Prince Andrew?
If Epstein had any friends, no one is raising their hand at the moment.
#8. No matter how many alleged victims name names, without evidence it’s still he-said-she-said. And Epstein has the evidence: photos and videotapes. As long as Epstein – and his evidence – are safe, so are the accused. They’ve no doubt hired high-profile attorneys and will walk away from this.
#9. Nobody will believe that Epstein isn’t dead. Everyone is speaking in terms of Epstein being dead: The president. Attorney General William Barr. The Bureau of Prisons. No one in the media is challenging this.
Except on social media, according to Politifact on August 12:
“Bloggers and Facebookers are saying that Epstein is still alive.
“U.S. corrections officials announced his death. The New York City medical examiner performed an autopsy. The U.S. Attorney General, federal prosecutors and an Epstein lawyer have said he is dead.
“To think otherwise requires that scores of officials with direct observation of Epstein’s death are either fooled or complicit.”
This article said “complicit” as though it’s a bad word to our government.
I have a one-word response to that:
And one reminder:
“Then I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”
– Trump, July 23, 2019
Here are my predictions:
Epstein’s “apparent suicide” happened on August 10. After the requisite amount of finger pointing – now including an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee
– this story will fade. It’s already dropped from the lead story to #4, or #6 or #7. Remember the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton? Those occurred less than two weeks ago, and now – they’re barely on the radar. The same will happen with the Epstein story.
Epstein’s accusers will slog their way through the court system and perhaps get some money from his estate, but will never get the satisfaction of knowing he’s spending the rest of his life in prison.
For awhile – but only for awhile – we’ll be left wondering, while we focus on the current headlines: the mysterious explosion at a Russian offshore military site that involved a missile’s nuclear power source…the Hong Kong protestors…the 2020 election candidates and who said what about or to whom…the stock market…the latest mass shooting…Trump’s offensive and hate-filled tweets.
The bits and pieces will continue to trickle out: “Epstein’s body has been claimed by someone described only as an ‘Epstein associate…’” “Autopsy finds broken bones in Jeffrey Epstein’s neck”…“Ghislaine Maxwell was recently living at a secluded mansion in a small New England beach town…”
But will the truth come out?
Which brings us to…
Nine puzzle pieces, with one remaining:
#10. Where is Jeffrey Epstein?
I’ll simply say: I don’t know where Jeffrey Epstein is, but he’s probably not in need of the “housing, subsistence for basic living expenses and medical care,” or the “job training and employment assistance” provided by the Witness Protection Program.
The same program in which no one “has been harmed or killed while under the active protection of the U.S. Marshals Service.”
I believe he’s alive, secure in his blackmail strategy, and living well.
Ko Lipe? Maybe. Aitutaki? Possibly. Definitely not on his private Caribbean island.
At some point in our not-too-distant past, someone at a party who’d perhaps had a few too many adult beverages thought it would be fun to put a lampshade on their head, and pose for a picture:
I don’t know why, but perhaps if I’d been there and also had a few too many adult beverages, I would have thought it was funny, too.
Well, Jamie Bisceglia of Fox Island, WA was ready to pose for a picture – not at a party but even better, for a photo contest – and she didn’t have a lampshade handy.
So instead of a lampshade on her head …
She put an octopus on her face:
For a story as important as this one – and Jamie got international coverage – I think some context is vital.
Jamie lives on Fox Island in Puget Sound, WA. An island is “a piece of land surrounded by water.”
Jamie has been fishing since she was a kid, and is currently the owner of South Sound Salmon Sisters, a company that takes women on guided fishing trips.
On that day in early August, Jamie was participating in a Tacoma fishing derby.
All this would suggest that she’s familiar with ocean residents, their characteristics and proclivities.
An octopus is “a cephalopod mollusk with eight sucker-bearing arms, a soft body, strong beaklike jaws, and no internal shell.”
Octopus suckers look like this:
And octopus beaks look like this:
Even I, who do not live on an island or participate in fishing derbies, can see that suckers will stick, and beaks will bite.
So I’m presuming the Jamie vs. octopus incident occurred for a reason as follows:
Option #1: Jamie wanted to help a friend win the photo contest. Jamie is a fishing expert, knew she was doing something risky, but anything for a friend, right? So she chose to do this:
Option #2: Jamie is really stupid.
Option #3: Both of the above.
The octopus, not being stupid, did what any self-respecting octopus would do to show its displeasure at this treatment:
It sank its beak into Jamie’s chin:
“When its beak entered my chin, it was the most intense pain,” Jamie said. “It felt like…a barbed hook. If I tried to release it off my face, I knew I was going to tear skin or flesh away.”
During this process, and because it was a self-respecting octopus, it also released venom into Jamie.
Jamie eventually removed the octopus and – though she was bleeding profusely – went on with the fishing contest.
That was on a Friday. When Jamie woke up Sunday morning,
“My eyes were swollen, I couldn’t see very well out of my left side, my glands were completely swollen, underneath my chin was a large pus pocket, and then the left side of my face was completely paralyzed.”
Jamie hadn’t gone to the ER. Jamie hadn’t gone to Urgent Care. Jamie hadn’t called these guys, either:
See #2, above.
Eventually Jamie did get medical help. And since then, she’s been proselytizing about not doing what she did:
Well, darn. That looked like such fun, I was just about to go catch me an octopus and do some serious face time, too.
Jessica Yellin, author of Savage News, is a TV news veteran – she began her broadcast career 1998 and over the next 15 years worked for ABC and MSNBC, and also for CNN, where she became Chief White House correspondent.
So it makes sense that her book’s main character, Natalie Savage, has a career in broadcast journalism and is on a journey to be her network’s next Chief White House correspondent.
That journey includes competing for the White House position with a guy who is stupid, amoral, and totally without integrity. Natalie is smart, has scruples, plus loads of integrity – which she’s in danger of jettisoning, if that’s what it takes to get the White House job.
What else is Natalie dealing with?
A heinous female manager who sends her texts like this one, after a White House press briefing: “I was not happy with that performance. And what is wrong with your hair? I expect better at the White House.”
An equally heinous mother who’s getting remarried soon: “This is about my special day. My wedding. My chance at happiness. Are you trying to spoil it?”
Sexual harassment from men she reports to – no surprise there – including the head of the network, a total slimeball known as the “Chief.”
Comments on her appearance from the Chief including, “We need you to step up your hair and makeup a few notches” and, “You’re too buttoned up – can you unbutton your blouse one button?” and, “You have a nice chest…I’d like to see more of you on camera, if you know what I mean.”
When the Chief’s verbal harassment transitions into inappropriate touching, it’s sickening.
And again, no surprise.
But there is an upside: Savage News is also laced with Yellin’s humor – sometime with similes, sometimes with sarcasm, but always funny:
“Matt went back to his phone, which was quivering in his hand spasmodically like a heart waiting to be transplanted.”
[The White House communications director] “stood behind the podium surveying the room with the pinched look of a bachelor tasked with changing a dirty diaper.”
“The president doesn’t understand the potential for an international crisis because he has the attention span of a fruit fly with ADD.”
(I have no doubt to whom the last refers.)
Yellin also gives us a chillingly accurate look at broadcast journalism today, and reminds us how easy it is to manipulate the news – and the truth – when so many of us believe everything we see on social media.
As she says on her website,
The News is Broken, and the cause is giant news organizations who sell panic and fear. They leave out the context, the education, the reason. They have forgotten why the news is critically important to democracy.
So I’ll say – read Savage News for Natalie’s journey, and for the humor.
And for a timely reminder that TV news is often more about revenue and ratings…
The word “camouflage,” from the French camoufler, means “to disguise.”
And that’s exactly what the military has used camouflage for, for centuries – to disguise the presence of equipment, installations and, most importantly, military personnel, to blend in with their surroundings and hinder the enemy’s efforts to find them:
Animals use camouflage, too, and for the same reason – to blend in with their surroundings and hinder predators’ efforts to find them. Like this very cool leaf-tailed gecko:
The whole point of camouflage is to not be seen.
So why, I wondered, do civilians wear it?
Clearly these people want to be seen, preferable by many, many other people.
Those in the fashion-know call this print pattern “camo” for its resemblance to military camouflage.
And there’s an abundance of it out there for women…
Including – seriously? Wedding dresses:
And for men…
(Guns…the perfect accessories.)
And, of course…
And we mustn’t overlook A$AP Rocky, who favors camo when he’s not languishing in a Swedish jail:
But camo isn’t worn only by the high-profilers – I recently saw a woman I’m pretty sure wasn’t a Kardashian or someone equally important, coming out of a restaurant wearing pants like these:
Are these pants sending a “don’t look at me” message?
So why camo?
There are plenty of articles online, and they seem to concur that camo became popular when civilians “started wearing the print with irony, as a counterculture statement against the Vietnam War. After that, it wasn’t long until Vogue wrote its first article on camouflage print clothing in 1971, saying it’s a ‘functional, practical, good-looking print and just as wearable as the everyday blue jean.’”
And the venerable Harper’s Bazaar, which considers itself the style resource for “women who are the first to buy the best, from casual to couture,” called camo “perhaps fashion’s most divisive print” and offered this advice:
“Don’t wear more than one piece at a time and keep the rest of your ensemble very simple.”
And the equally venerable Fashionista stated unequivocally that camo “is back for good”:
Bombshell also declared that camo “is back for good”:
And Glowsly included camo on their list of “Fall/Winter 2019-2020 Print Trends”:
With that reinforcement ringing in my ears, I’m off to visit my “nearest army surplus store,” and embrace my inner camo.
And I’ll try to refrain from wearing more than one piece at a time.
Apparently this model didn’t get the word about “Don’t wear more than one piece of camo at a time.”
Just a guess, but – I’m thinking this model didn’t find his outfit at the nearest army surplus store.
I try – and sometimes fail – to be a live-and-let-live kind of person.
I believe we can treat each other with respect, even when we don’t agree with choices of religion or politics or traditions.
As many people have said, “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”
But one of the instances when I fail to be that live-and-let-live person is the killing of animals to use their body parts for traditional Chinese medicine.
When there is no scientific evidence that any of these animal body parts has any medicinal value at all.
The catalyst for this thought was a review of a new documentary that opened in July, Sea of Shadows, a film that “fatally intertwines the destinies of two species of fish with very particular qualities.”
The film’s setting is the Gulf of California, and one of the species is the totoaba, “a fish whose swim bladder is so valued in China for its supposed miraculous medicinal powers that its nickname is ‘the cocaine of the seas.’”
The image above (just below the title) is black market totoaba swim bladders.
Totoaba swim bladders can sell for “upward of $100,000 each.”
The totoaba are caught in illegal gill nets, and so is the second species, the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise, which lives only in the Gulf of California. Both species are considered “critically endangered.”
The vaquita population was an estimated 30 when the film begins, and “fewer when it ends.”
So the totoaba are killed for their swim bladders, and the vaquita are just peripheral damage, dying because they’re inconvenient.
How many animals, I wondered, are dying because of mythical medical beliefs?
Too damn many.
And some of those are on their way to becoming extinct, just like the vaquita and totoaboa.
I want to be a live-and-let-live respecter of traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM, as it’s referred to in this article on NationalGeographic.com:
The author describes TCM as:
“A system of health care that dates back to the third century B.C. It grew out of the writings of ancient healers, who began recording their observations of the body, its functions, and its reactions to various therapies and treatments, including herbal remedies, massage, and acupuncture.
“For more than 2,000 years, generations of healers and scholars added to and refined the knowledge. The result is a canon of literature dealing with practically every sort of health issue – from the common cold to cancer, pregnancy to old age.”
Compare that to “Western” or “European” medicine, where we’re talking mere centuries, not millennia.
Western medicine, in which the best they can do today for cancer is cutting, burning and/or poisoning.
So, I’m sure there is much to respect in TCM.
But I can’t reconcile that with this:
Especially when the article goes on to say,
“Though China has long embraced science-based medicine, TCM remains popular throughout the country and is often offered in hospitals and clinics alongside science-based medical treatments.
“TCM has also become popular beyond China’s borders and can now be found in more than 180 countries worldwide, according to some counts, and has an industry value of more than $60 billion a year.”
So the demand for animals threatened by extinction – again, for unproven medicinal use – is growing. From a different source:
“Today [in China], the bulging upper and middle class are ready to pay more for these traditional remedies. The use of traditional Chinese remedies containing such animal components has become a status symbol amongst the rich in China.
“As demand increases, poachers in Asia, Africa and other parts of the world are only too willing to kill rare, endangered, and protected animals.”
Another of those animals is the pangolin, featured in this article:
The article describes the pangolin as “looking like a cross between an anteater and an armadillo but unrelated to either,” and it’s easy to see why:
This article goes on to say that the pangolin
“is the world’s most trafficked mammal: A million of them are thought to have been poached from the wild in just a decade.
“Already almost wiped out in China, the pangolin is fast disappearing from the jungles of the rest of Asia and, increasingly, from Africa to supply China’s booming market in traditional medicine.”
And it’s not just the pangolin, or the big animals – rhinos, tigers, elephants – that are killed for body parts for TCM. There are many animals in trouble; here are a few of them:
Banteng wild cattle are killed for their horns and skulls, used in TCM.
Chinese alligator meat is promoted as a way to cure the common cold and prevent cancer, and the organs are also said to have medicinal properties.
Chinese softshell turtles; poachers hunt them for their oil to treat night sweats and muscle spasms.
Musk deer; their musk is used for treating ailments of the circulatory and nervous system, and also as a sedative.
Saiga horn products are believed to be effective in reducing fevers, detoxification, assuaging epilepsy, and benefit the liver.
Seahorses are dried and used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Toad-headed geckos are gutted, beheaded, dried and crushed, and used to treat asthma, erectile dysfunction and the common cold.
Water buffalo horns are considered an alternative to rhino horns in the treatment of conditions ranging from fever to convulsions.
And the list of animals is not static; now we can add lions, which are being killed for their bones as an alternative to tigers:
And if you convince consumers your product is an aphrodisiac, your fortune is made. As this author on AllYouNeedBiology.com said of the image below:
It is very easy to find products made with lion bone online. Getting prices and easy ways to buy online did not cost me more than two minutes. These products promise to lengthen the penis and improve sexual potency.
So: Traditional Chinese Medicine.
What, exactly, is a “tradition”?
Tradition: The handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice.
All people, all countries, all religions have traditions. And who am I to criticize the Chinese, when it comes to their traditional medicine?
Americans, after all, have many traditions, old and more recent, that I think are wrong. College hazing comes to mind. So does crucifying people on social media.
And then there’s lynching, a favored pastime for some from 1882 to 1968.
It’s just that when I see this:
For no other reason than mythical medicinal tradition…
For a few days in late July, this story was all over the news:
Here’s the image that goes with the headline:
I read many online versions of the story and they were consistent: One Dollar Zone, a regional chain, had stocked the dolls in their Bayonne, NJ store , but removed them after shoppers raised concerns, especially that the dolls were racist.
Called a “Feel Better Doll,” they were black, with red, yellow and green yarn hair, and came with these instructions attached to the doll:
Whenever things don’t go well and you want to hit the wall and yell, here’s a little “feel better doll” that you just will not do without. Just grab it firmly by the legs and find a wall to slam the doll, and as you whack the “feel good doll” do not forget to yell I FEEL GOOD. I FEEL GOOD
Below that were website and email addresses for Harvey Hutter, a company no one in the media could reach, and had apparently gone out of business.
Ricky Shah, the president of One Dollar Zone, said the inappropriate dolls making it to shelves was an oversight. “One Dollar Zone deeply apologizes for this incident,” he said.
The black rag doll story was in the headlines for a few days, then faded from view.
And that’s too bad, because this isn’t only a story about the doll.
It’s about us.
One of the online articles included a link to the Facebook page of Bayonne’s mayor, Jimmie Davis, on this subject:
It was the posts that followed that troubled me as much as the doll itself. There were very strong responses from two very different points of view, and as I read them I felt almost overwhelmed at how divided our country is.
Below is a sampling of the posts that I grouped together in terms of sentiment:
When did we get so divided?
Yes, we’ve always been a country of strong opinions – and even before we were a country. The pre-Revolutionary War colonists fought and argued among themselves, but united enough to fight against their common enemy, Great Britain, and win our independence.
And we’ve always been a country of different opinions: To enter World War I or not? To allow big monopolies or not? To install a stoplight at that intersection or not?
Pick any topic and we’ll have opposing opinions, and we feel free to express them. And that’s a good thing.
But we’re different now. Issues we used to talk about – now, we fight about. If you’re not with me, you’re against me.
Everything has turned into black and white with no gray areas, and no interest in even seeing if there is a gray area.
When did we get so divided?
When Trump was elected.
Because while Trump isn’t smart, and he isn’t well-read, and he’s certainly no student of history, he has mastered a tactic that’s been around for thousands of years:
Divide and conquer.
Even in his ignorance – which is endless – Trump knows that the “divide and conquer” tactic has been around for so long because it works.
What is “divide and conquer”?
The policy of maintaining control over one’s subordinates or subjects by encouraging dissent between them.
To make a group of people disagree and fight with one another so they will not join together against one.
To keep control over people who might oppose you, by encouraging disagreement or fighting among them.
Where does the black rag doll story fit in?
That story – and the no-gray-area opinions – are a microcosm of Trump’s use of divide and conquer:
Author Robert Reich said it better than I ever could:
Trump has forced all of us to take sides, and to despise those on the other. There’s no middle ground.
It’s the divide-and-conquer strategy of a tyrant.
Democracies require sufficient social trust that citizens regard the views of those they disagree with as worthy of equal consideration to their own. That way, they’ll accept political outcomes they dislike.
Trump’s divide-and-conquer strategy is to destroy that trust.
Nothing could be more dangerous to our democracy and society.
I like the old saying, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
That saying came to mind when I was reading this article:
The article talks about Charles Schwab’s annual Modern Wealth Survey, which involved a national sample of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 21 and 75.
Schwab published the results on their website, and there are references in the survey to “Millennials” and “Generation (or Gen) Z.” To remind myself who was in which group, I checked the guidelines:
Millennials: Were born between 1980 and 1994. They’re currently between 25-39 years old.
Gen Z: Were born between 1995 and 2015. They’re currently between 4-24 years old.
These two groups are “digital generations” – they are tech savvy, and computers, cell phones and gadgets are as normal to them as breathing. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms are part of their daily – hourly – lives.
So it was interesting to learn that while Millennials and Gen Z can’t wait to go on Instagram and see what their friends posted about what they had for breakfast – or what their dog had for breakfast – these same groups rank social media as the biggest “bad” influence when it comes to how they manage their money.
They see pictures of their friends on expensive vacations or eating at trendy restaurants, and they want to do that, too.
There’s even a name for it: FOMO.
Fear Of Missing Out.
But here’s where it gets really interesting. The Millennials said they weren’t worried, and despite their bad spending and saving habits, “they plan to be wealthy within one to 10 years.”
Millennials are those 25- to 39-year-olds, and they often get knocked in the media. Like in this Time magazine cover story that called them “The ME ME ME Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.”
And while that’s certainly stereotyping and possibly unfair, I wondered how this Schwab-surveyed group – how any group or individual – can “plan to be wealthy within one to 10 years.”
What, exactly, is their “plan”? Their path? Their strategy?
They weren’t saying they’d like to be wealthy or hope to be wealthy or want to be wealthy.
No, this group just “plans to be wealthy.”
So I decided to do my own survey to see just how Millennials “plan” to do this.
Here are some of their answers:
“I’m going to invent a phone with no cord that fits in your pocket!”
(Um…I think that’s already been done?)
“I’m going to get adopted by Bill Gates!”
(Hmmm. Does Bill Gates know about this?)
“I’m going to the Olympics, I’ll win a gold medal, and get lots of sponsor deals!”
“What sport will you play?”
“I haven’t figured that out yet!”
OK, I’m kidding.
In turns out that the Schwab survey did suggest that Millennials do have a strategy:
“Ignore their friends’ social media posts.”
That’s right. No more checking out what their friends – or their friends’ dogs – had for breakfast. No more looking at photos of people hanging 10 in Hawaii or schussing in Switzerland. No more videos of happy groups dining on kelp noodles and seaweed butter at the latest hot spot.
No more FOMO.
Millennials are going to ignore social media posts.